Colin Powell, Trailblazing General Dies of COVID-19 Despite Vaccine
Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state and the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff died on Monday morning at 84 from COVID-19 complications.
A statement posted on Powell’s Facebook page by his family said that he suffered from complications of COVID-19, despite being “fully vaccinated.” Powell was receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather, and a great American,” the family wrote in the statement.
Tributes for a “Trailblazer”
Dozens of military leaders and politicians from both parties have taken to social media to honor the former national security adviser, remembering him as “one of the greatest leaders.”
President Joe Biden, whom Powell worked closely when Biden was then a senator, called him a “patriot of unmatched honor and dignity.”
“Colin Powell embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat,” Biden said in his statement. “He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all.”
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said that Powell was a “champion” and his service was “legendary,” while U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called him a “trailblazing leader.”
Civil Rights Activist Reverend Al Sharpton tweeted, “Though we disagreed on many issues, I always respected him and was proud of his achievements … he was a sincere and committed man to what he believed in.”
Former President George W. Bush said he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death. Powell was the first Black secretary of state under Bush and worked in an office with him from Jan. 2001 to Jan. 2005.
“He was a great public servant,” Bush said in his statement. “He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most importantly, Colin was a family man and a friend.
“Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”
Colin Powell, A Diplomat in the Face of an Aching Nation
Powell, the son of two Jamaican immigrants, was raised in the South Bronx. The New Yorker served in the U.S. Army for 35 years, where he was promoted to the rank of general in 1989. He later served a White House Fellowship under president Richard Nixon and years later, he became then-president Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor.
In 1989, Powell was promoted to four-star general and later as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by former President George H.W. Bush, where he oversaw responses to multiple crises.
Powell declared himself a Republican in 1995, during a time when both political parties wanted him in their administration. Deciding against running in two presidential elections, Powell eventually endorsed George W. Bush in the 2000 U.S. presidential election and was appointed Secretary of State after Bush won.
It was Powell’s responsibility to manage the relationship with foreign countries. Rarely ever resulting in violence, Powell was met with criticism after his involvement with the invasion of Iraq, making a case for war against Iraq and justifying it with faulty evidence. In his 2003 address to the U.N. Security Council, Powell cited faulty allegations that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Despite these inaccurate claims, Saddam was removed as war raged on for years with thousands of death and decades of violence in Iraq.
It was a moment in his career he later regretted, calling it a “blot on my record” in 2011.
During an interview with Barbara Walters, Powell said, “It will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It’s painful now.”
Many Iraqis have no remorse for Powell’s death, with some saying his destructive involvement in the thousands of Iraqi deaths was no mistake.
Muntadher Alzaidi, the Iraqi journalist who infamously threw his shoes at Bush during a 2008 news conference in Baghdad, tweeted his distaste in Powell’s passing.
“I am saddened by the death of Colin Powell without being tried for his crimes in Iraq,” Alzaidi tweeted. “But I am sure that the court of God will be waiting for him.”
Following former President Trump’s run, Powell showed opposition to Trump’s actions, eventually turning his back on republicans. He became independent after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
“I can no longer call myself a fellow Republican,” he told CNN in January. “I’m just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat throughout my entire career. And right now, I’m just watching my country and not concerned with parties.”
Powell’s Death Raises Concerns About Vaccine
In a series of mixed emotions regarding Powell’s death, COVID vaccines and their effectiveness in reducing severe and deadly outcomes from the coronavirus have come into question, leaving many wondering why a man who was fully vaccinated still succumbed to his death. He was previously successfully treated for multiple myeloma (MM), a cancer of white blood cells in the bone marrow, but the treatments ultimately weakened his immune system.
A study published in July explored the responses of COVID-19 vaccinations among patients with multiple myeloma. It stated that patients with multiple myeloma “are at higher risk for severe COVID-19,” with elderly and immunocompromised persons particularly vulnerable and experiencing “much higher rates of mortality.”
The vaccines have tremendously reduced the likelihood of severe disease and death from the coronavirus. Although severe covid is rare in fully vaccinated people, experts have expressed that no vaccine is 100 percent effective. Those who are fully vaccinated are still at risk of severe and deadly complications of COVID-19 if they are immunocompromised.
According to the study, only 45 percent of those with active multiple myeloma “developed an adequate response” after receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
“Unfortunately, the same mechanisms that impede MM patients’ ability to fend off infections also reduce their capability to generate immunity from vaccination,” the study states.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 190 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Of those people, 6,104 people who were 65 or older died.
Powell’s struggle with cancer and other underlying medical issues ultimately led to his tragic demise from COVID-19. Experts encourage that those 65 or older get the booster shot. It is unknown if Powell received his booster shot.
Powell is survived by his wife Alma and his three children Michael, Linda, and Annemarie.